Monday, December 29, 2014

Tabletop Christmas Tree

A friend recently remarked that once a tree is chosen and cut (he finds his upstate in a field), it is always the prettiest one, which makes sense when you observe that our brains, whether we know it or not, live in the present, rather than the past or future.

I've featured ours already, albeit in different light. And as far as that goes, this amateur photographer prefers these shots for their softness of light—light which is northern, cool and blue-grey to the eye. I give it a few days at most until the ornaments go back to their felt 1950's sample case, since the greens are more than ready for the tree pits that line each side of the street.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Day Walk

Sheep Meadow 

Looking towards 5th Avenue and Central Park South

Looking towards 5th Avenue 

Frick Museum 

Frick Museum Garden 

St. James Episcopal Church, Madison Avenue 

East 72nd Street 

Bethesda Terrace 

Central Park West 

A Christmas Day walk took Mr. Husband and I across Central Park to the Frick Museum and Madison Avenue, then back across the Park at 72nd Street, where we passed the Bethesda Terrace. It was a beautiful afternoon, with "stormy" light making the towering new building seen from Sheep Meadow look somewhat interesting for the first time ever. More tall buildings will be going up in the years to come, which will significantly change the skyline.

Speaking of building: The Frick Museum wants to build a tower where a lovely courtyard garden now stands (my photo of the Frick with a tree), which is protected by the Landmarks Commission. This kind of proposal having been shot down once before, we'll see what happens. Change is relentless in this town! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

The photo above was snapped Christmas Eve morning at 10 am, when our local classical radio station WQXR broadcast Lessons & Carols from King's College, England, in real time. I made a pot of darjeeling while listening, and puttered around the kitchen getting things ready for today, when we'll host our ninety-five year old neighbor Charles for dinner (who caught Edith Piaf in his arms during her last appearance in Gotham—she died shortly afterwards—and also climbed the pyramids when he was ninety). Jacque Pépin's steamed turkey is on the menu as it was at Thanksgiving, while dessert will be a chocolate log from the fabulous French bakery around the corner. Sharp eyes will notice that I moved the tree to the other side of the table behind the sofa, where it is more at home in the room. It's an art, is it not, this thing called beauty? I'm still learning.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas at The Apthorp

I had a wonderful afternoon lunch with a friend here in Gotham yesterday, whereupon I sailed down Broadway to pick up a Christmas turkey at Fairway Market, passing by the Apthorp and snapping a few photos of its entrance. 

I was in one of the apartments once, which had a huge living room: 30 by 40, with 18 foot ceilings—the apartment had its own entrance right off the elevator, and hallways so wide extended arms did not touch the walls. That was years ago, before the building was taken over and made into condominiums, and the impala-buckback-something-or-other on the gate was gilded. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bringing in the Green

I told myself that I wasn't going to do very much decorating this year, but found myself with a tabletop tree (see previous post) and garland on the mantel. The later was sourced from a Christmas tree stand a few blocks away. All I had to do was tie it up via existing screws and bring some gilded pine cones and faux cranberry branches out of storage. All in all, that took me about 15 minutes to execute from start to finish. 

The leftover branches found their way to frames, which makes for a very Victorian-styled Christmas; fitting perhaps, since the building was erected in 1895—the whole street of interconnected houses popping up in one fell swoop as I understand it. 

The gilt mirror dates from around 1850, and has been in the apartment since the 1950's, while the framed "green man" is 18th century—or so I was told. And yes, that's a green velvet curtain which separates the alcove kitchen from the main living area. You can see an antique china cabinet in the reflection, which is topped by a few old serving trays which I plan to restore, their current finish being beyond repair, but handy when a serving tray is needed. 

My mother's Seth Thomas is on the mantel, along with silver candlesticks which will receive a shining over the weekend, and a framed letter by Manuel García—a legendary voice teacher who wrote this particular note on his 100th birthday in 1905. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

O Christmas Tree

This Christmas tree business is very early for me, since I usually decorate for the Holidays only during the week before Christmas. But it was snowing in Gotham today as I passed a tree stand a few blocks away, and wouldn't you know it? The pine fragrance hit me in the face, my heart burst open.

Honey! Look what I brought home! And that's really unusual too, since Mr. Husband and I have not put up a tree in more than a decade, since there is no room for one that sits on the floor. But the idea of having a tabletop tree has been brewing in my brain. 

The antique cloisonné pot is in its usual place and is quite handy for champagne. All I had to do was put in antique glass fireplace "coals" that my father gave me as ballast, then wedge in floral foam to keep the tree from falling over, which I covered with moss. Then I trimmed away some of the branches and created a terraced structure—using brown shoe polish to touch up. Up came an old sample suitcase from the basement that I store ornaments in—some antique, some newer, all a riff on the colors in the apartment. 

Garland will go on the mantel in a week or so—no hurry on that just yet, with gilt pines cones (we're talking gold paint, ok?), gold ribbon and not much else.

Only one thing is missing, which is a tree top ornament. I'm thinking purple, pink, silver or gold. But then, I won't know until I see it. Isn't that how it goes?

Saturday, December 6, 2014


A very good friend sent an amaryllis in a pot about 10 days ago, which I promptly watered according to instructions, then watched shoot up like you can't believe. A day or so ago, it started blooming, and, as you can see, has the most amazing red flowers. It's probably not going to last another week, so when it gives up the ghost, the enamel pot next to it on the table behind the couch is going to house its first trimmed Christmas tree: you know, the Martha Stewart number where you trim away some of the branches in order to create a layered effect? I've always wanted to do it, and decided that this was the year. Pictures to follow when I have something to show. Just in time for Christmas.